VPRO documentary: How did Brexit happen?

Brexit: The Uncivil War
The UK left the EU on January 1 2021, big ben chimed and there were fireworks at 2300 on December 31st in some places.

There are so many things I have said and want to say but I found the VPRO (Dutch public service broadcaster) really worth watching.  As always its good to see Brexit from the view of our neighbours.

Good documentary, hard to watch but very fair leaning on Brexit: civil war, the horrible class divide in the UK, the lies of the Boris bus, targetted advertising, the problems with nostalgia, etc..

 

My new years resolutions for 2021

Ian Forrester selfie with a mask

Its been quite a year and everybody is looking for a better year in 2021.

Following my review of last year… here’s my New Years Resolutions for 2021; which follows on from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 ones.

  1. Live in another country for a short while
    Regardless of the pandemic, I’m still keen to spend a serious amount of time in Europe. I know we just left Europe (don’t get me started) and its now even harder to do what I had planned last year. Regardless I got to try and apply for the Estonian digital nomad visa.
  2. Head further a field with the scooter
    A follow on from the last lot of resolutions, even with Covid19 and Brexit, I’m holding out hope that I can find a way to either the Netherlands or Ireland. I almost went to the Netherlands over the summer but the rules changed meaning I would need to self isolate for 14 days after coming back.
  3. Take better care of my skin.
    face creams

    This is a follow on from last year, my sleep, alertness, etc are great but I for decades have neglected my skin. Since I was young, I would use petroleum jelly on my face and hands. I only really noticed the issue with this while shaving. But I was convinced by my barber to stop doing this and use proper face moisturisers. My family were amazed my skin turned out as well as it did we 30+ years of petroleum jelly. So its time for something new and less harsh?

  4. Step up my gratitudes
    My lovely ex-colleague Nicky told me about a book shes been using, called the 6 minute diary. Last time we talked about my gratitudes. So from new years I’ll give it a go. It will likely the most I have handwritten in a long time. Thanks Nicky again and look forward to seeing what hits the paper.
  5. Host more film nights and dinner parties
    This is a repeat of the last year but even with Covid19, I’m going to put this on the list, as I could do much better. Heck I got enough Chocolate to do a tasting night every month right now.
  6. Spend even more time with the Diabolo
    Diabolo whip
    The pandemic has given me so much time with the Diabolo. Its amazing to see how fast I have improved in the community garden. A while back I wanted to learn the Vertex and now I’m getting confidently doing it but got a long way to go before I start throwing genocide vertex’s. Although I feel I can watch a video on youtube and pick it up within a week or two now. However I still don’t get the infinite suicide, it should be easy but it never works for me.
  7. Send a email out to friends and family once or twice a year
    I’m slightly preparing to spend even less time in Facebook and looking at the alternatives to substack and medium. Most likely I will selfhost it now I’m running yuno host on a raspberry pi4. Either Writefreely or something with Activitypub.
  8. Self host and move to more decentralised/fediverse services.
    Its something I’ve been doing for a while but its time for the big push. As I’m spending more time at home, I got more time to learn and now my main services are running on the NAS. The RaspberryPi is a great platform for self-hosting. While thinking about the previous one, I posted something on Mastodon.
    Someone suggested this Github project and someone suggested Friendica might have what I need.
  9. Find an alternative to the pebble watch
    My Pebble with Sugru

    My friends have been really good to me, giving up their old pebble smartwatches to me. But as I’m now on my last pebble, its time to move over to something else. I enjoyed not having to pull out my phone to read a message and to even reply directly from the watch. But I can’t buy another one now. I had pinned my hope on the hybrid smartwatches but they don’t seem to have the ability to send a reply. Anyway, no more pebble after this one dies.
  10. Listen to a Audiobook every month.
    Another advantage of being at home is the amount of audiobooks I’m listening to. Right now I’m listening to one every week but 12 is a basic target and should be do able with the sheer amount of podcasts I’ve been listening too. This also fits with Audiable’s monthly subscription.
  11. Take a more political & strategic view on the status quo
    George Floyd 7 months later

    There’s been a number of books and podcasts, which have led me to the fact people around me think things are generally ok. Yes with the pandemic, they changed their minds for this year but I hear again and again – “Next year things will go back to how they were and all will be ok.”
    No I’m 99% sure it won’t and frankly how it was, was not good enough. We need to fight harder for a better future for all. Its also clear to me the right has found a formula which is working but its easily broken by taking a active role in our democracy. May this year made this ever so clear to me.
  12. Finish my dating book
    Yes that book is being worked on between myself and Hannah. The latest draft is looking great. Honestly it reads like a real book! I’m now considering writing a epilogue but unfortunately my relationship ended during this year. Meaning a rewrite and rethink how to end it as such.
    There are other considerations like photography/artwork, formats, checking for consistency, where to publish, how to publish, etc, etc. Any thoughts do get in touch (like to avoid Amazon if I can and it makes sense)Here is a tiny sneaky paragraph from a draft chapter (Hannah is such a great writer and editor, you should hire her!)

    …I studied her face to see what her intention was. Maybe it was a spontaneous comment that didn’t really mean anything. Perhaps she was playing to the cameras that surrounded us?

    The longer I looked, the more smug her expression became. She might have been pretty before but that dirty grin said it all. If she was trying to push my buttons she had found them alright. What happened next was not my finest hour.

    Maybe the combination of divorce, Mr Tango and the button pushing had something to do with what happened next. It felt like I was thinking it but it came out.

    Regardless, I do take responsibility for what happened next…

    Bet you are dying to know what happens next right? Hopefully this year you will know.

So that’s the 12 for 2021 (still no real reason why its 12, it just is). Its a tough one because I wanted to include things like visit a new country but I decided its unlikely this coming year. I was also going to add one about getting the Covid19 vaccine/jabs but I just learned one of the ingredients includes pea protein? So it might be a even longer wait for me to get the vaccine.

Have a good new year all!

What does the Brexit deal mean for most people?

Dublin

Everytime I think about Brexit, my heart sinks and I can’t help but shake my head. But a deal has been done, which is better than no deal (which was looking so likely).

The guardian and BBC have reasonable summary but I found the TLDR news a very good friendly summary.

Here’s their summary from the UK point of view

And there is the European point of view, which I’m glad they did because like during the debates before the Brexit vote; there was too much focus on what it means for the UK and not for our friends and neighbours.

Can the government be trusted to honour any promises?

Boris Johnson

In short No!

To doubts that the government can be trusted to honour promises to maintain post-Brexit workplace, environmental and food standards must now be added very real concerns about its continued adherence to international human rights law – meaning, specifically, the European convention on human rights. Such prospective backsliding is foolish, damaging and wholly unacceptable.

The issue came to the fore last week after Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, revealed that the UK “informs us that they do not wish to commit formally to applying the ECHR”. Downing Street later claimed that the government continued to support the treaty, which the UK joined in 1951, but did not want its membership to form a legally binding part of a future EU-UK trade agreement.

I commented this is awful time to be reconsidering trade deals in the middle of a potential worldwide pandemic. Don’t even get me started about all the other sneaky things which are happening.

Do I trust this government with any of this and so much more? Do you? Just as I’m reading about how the data (could) indicates the downfall of the UK.

In an article published by TruePublica, we showed how every twenty years there is a natural cycle of economic and political change – and linked it to generational forces alongside new technologies. The Father-and-son cycle that Turchin talks of is the same as our own research. The sons of fathers change the world and it takes 40 years for the really big change to come along. In our research, we predicted that right now, Britain is only halfway into a period of political and economic upheaval.

So where is Britain in the criteria of PSI? The boxes in all of its questions are ticked. A crisis has occurred, the government reacted incorrectly, the masses have demanded change, and a member of the elite, a populist is promising the world. Additionally, Britain is being emersed in heavy national debts costing nearly a £1billion a week just to service the interest charges and now has nothing in reserve to soften the blow of anything unexpected like, say, another recession – one perhaps caused by Brexit. And the people are in trouble too. Household debt is on the cusp of a historic explosion – forecast to double in just four years to completely unsustainable levels. Could the coronavirus, more flooding or Brexit be the spark?

How about basic human rights?

Carole Cadwalladr’s thoughts on our broken society

At the MyData 2019 conference in Helsinki. I had the absolute pleasure of talking with Carole Cadwalladr after seeing a panel discussion about the great hack and also taking part in a workshop about it.

I realised I had not actually shared her TED talk on my blog, and only shared the great hack via the July public service internet newsletter.

I can change that easily enough, and I want to share some of the workshop resources, but not totally sure they are for sharing…?

Move fast and break society?
Sander Van Der Waal’s slide from a later mydata session

In an unmissable talk, journalist Carole Cadwalladr digs into one of the most perplexing events in recent times: the UK’s super-close 2016 vote to leave the European Union. Tracking the result to a barrage of misleading Facebook ads targeted at vulnerable Brexit swing voters — and linking the same players and tactics to the 2016 US presidential election — Cadwalladr calls out the “gods of Silicon Valley” for being on the wrong side of history and asks: Are free and fair elections a thing of the past?

BBC R&D: We do things differently!

We do things differently at BBC Research & Development. We’re curious and bold with a collective passion for making positive change. We’re inclusive and diverse – as well as collaborative and open by nature.

Quite a different view on the place I work daily, BBC R&D. Vicky did a amazing job creating a fresh and challenging video. You can see why the last post about Brexit is a difficult one to write/imagine

Facebook tries to claw its self back

Screenshot_2019-09-01 (1) Islington Wharf

I noticed Facebook seems to be integrating Instagram into the Facebook web. I don’t have Instagram and refuse to use it due to their terms of use. But I assume their terms match Facebooks? I find the whole thing annoying to be honest but it feels like a very desperate way to claw back users attention.

Screenshot_2019-09-01 (1) Facebook

Talking about desperate, I happened to see this in my newsfeed. I usually don’t look at my newsfeed at all but something has happened with a friend which means I had to browse a bit (don’t worry it won’t become a habit).

Facebook is so full of crap, and stuff like this confirms it to me. Facebook couldn’t give a flying crap about me spending time with friends and family. I was so insulted by this notice I almost laughed out loud.

I almost wanted to look around to see what other treats (nonsense) they had planned for a user who gets in and gets out; only looking at a few groups for events. But theres so much more important things to get angry about right now.

Brexit: Stay or go and to where?

Flags of Europe

Facing no deal and the abuse of democracy which is happening in the UK. I’m rethinking again my plans for the future of living in the UK. I think its getting to that point when I need to think about cutting my losses?

It doesn’t seem on paper not too horrible but of course there’s a lot more to it than just the logistics…

After much thought, it seems these are the biggest things which are stopping me. Not to say family, friends, my partner, etc are not a big consideration.

Career progression

If the right company/public service organisation got in touch and offered me a position/career similar to my current role but in Europe. I would seriously think long and hard about it; then in this Brexit climate likely accept the offer. Its hard to say, as I love what I do for the BBC and there are great people I work with; but there is no way I can ignore whats happening in the wider country. I’m sure colleagues, management, etc would understand and wish me the best.

Language

I’m not totally sure why but languages don’t come easy to me. I have been to many places in the world, and each time I struggle to remember even the basic stuff (please, thank you, etc). I read there might be difficulty being dyslexic with learning languages. However I’ve never let it hold me back and in a Brexit climate, I believe its certainly worth the struggle/effort!

Looking across

… and where?

Where would I go is a little more fun to think about, but realistically the freedom of movement means I could be flexible… Ideally it would be somewhere with a lot of interest in technology but with a strong public ethos. Somewhere with its own strong creative sector and well thought out public transport system. It would be a place of eventfulness and cosmopolitan culture.

If I was pushed to name a few places, the cities in the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and even France? After visiting Antwerp, I have to say the second cities are quite attractive, just as Manchester is to London. (Yes I know Birmingham is the 2nd biggest but thats only one type of metric).

I was reminded that I have friends in many cities who could be extremely useful to ask practical questions and visit sometime.

Re:Creating Europe at the time of a dictatorship

One of the very best Manchester International Festival events I went to this year was Re:creating Europe by Ivo Van Hove.

I can’t even express the living nightmare the UK is being dragged into by a  calculated Boris Johnson. Its clear Europe isn’t perfect but in this 90min play, you get a real sense of how momentous the building of Europe was and hope for a better Europe. However (sadly) it will be a better Europe without the UK…

Don’t forget to sign the petition for Parliament not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.

Re:Creating Europe – MIF from De Balie on Vimeo.

What is Europe? Is it a continent or a culture, a bygone dream or a thriving reality – or all of the above? In a year when a deeply divided Britain is set to leave the EU, De Balie and Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (ITA) present the performance Re:Creating Europe in Manchester.

The s*** storm which is Brexit

There is a really good opinion piece I read recently in open democracy from a leave voter. Who although holds on to her believes why she voted to leave but can’t bear to see the massive s*** storm which is about to tear the United Kingdom (ha!) apart.

The economic arguments for Brexit have been destroyed by a series of shattering blows

Take the deal, or maybe its pride which stops the UK from doing so?

So I argue, as a Brexiteer, that we need to take a long deep breath. We need to swallow our pride, and think again. Maybe it means rethinking the Brexit decision altogether.

Certainly it means a delay when we can think about it all in a period of calm. Europe is offering us this opportunity. President Tusk is ready to offer a year’s extension. I say: grab it with both hands.

I’ve been thinking for a long while its time to stop this craziness with a 2nd vote but those who voted leave will cry fowl or say we have undermined democracy. However deep down I think there are some critical reasons why this must happen…

The author pretty much writes the reasons in her post.

  1. Independence is it really worth the battle?

I respect those who say yes, all this is worth it to pursue a dream of independence. It is a noble dream. I share it. It is founded on Britain’s historic role as a proud nation that has repeatedly fought for freedom and liberty. I, too, am conscious of our magnificent history. In the 18th century we stood against the Bourbon dream of European hegemony. We liberated Europe from the Napoleonic domination of continental Europe at the start of the 19th century. And faced up to Nazi Germany in 1940.

But this is not 1939 or the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. History gets made and remade all the time. The European Union is not a dictatorship, as contemptuous of national identity as Napoleonic France. Nor can it be compared to Nazi Germany – a foolish analogy which has become an ugly cliché and displays an unforgivable failure to understand the true horror of recent European history. Nor is it any longer a socialist project as envisaged by Jacques Delors, let alone an evil empire, as some have characterised it.

Of course our looming privations and national isolation would be thoroughly worthwhile if we were confronting such a continental menace. Let others call us ridiculous: we would have a duty to stand alone. But is such language appropriate in a century when all our EU partners are democracies, and none poses the remotest threat of taking up arms against us? Donald Tusk, who will lead the EU heads of government when they meet next week to decide Britain’s future inside the union, is not Hindenberg. Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, is a genial, shrewd elderly man who (like me) enjoys the occasional drink.

I readily accept that the European Union is a dysfunctional body beset by all manner of problems. But the lesson of the last two years is that we are much better off working inside the EU (where we are greatly respected; it was British civil servants, remember, who wrote the rules of the single market) for reform and not as a hostile neighbour.

2. Will there be a United Kingdom left?

Moreover, there is a second reason for why I have changed my mind. The threat to the United Kingdom. This hits me like a massive punch in the stomach. When I cast my vote in 2016 I believed that the European Union was, if anything, a threat to our own union…

Like almost everybody else I underestimated the importance of the Good Friday Agreement

But I did not foresee that Brexit would threaten the continued existence of our kingdom as a union. I reckoned without the separatists within our nation who would push us apart, and seize on Brexit (as the Scottish nationalists are doing) as a reason to break up.

3. The vote was illegally and heavily manipulated – FACT

My third unhappiness concerns the integrity of some leading Brexiteers. We are learning more and more about the deceit and illegal tactics which accompanied the Leave campaign. Late last month, on a busy news day, Vote Leave dropped its appeal against a £61,000 fine for electoral offences committed during the referendum.

Allegations of illegal overspending are deeply worrying. Britain’s data protection watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, fined Leave. EU and Eldon Insurance, an insurance company run by Leave’s Arron Banks, a total of £120,000 for breaking electoral marketing laws. The National Crime Agency is still investigating suspicions of criminal offences committed by the unofficial Brexit campaign during the referendum. Banks’ alleged links to Russian money are even more worrying. There have not yet been serious enough attempts to answer these questions.

Everyday I can’t watch the news to see the s*** storm getting darker and darker. I’m sure in many years things will get better but I currently estimate it will be 15-20 years.

Poor rich America, the first nation?

I was reading why America is the World’s First Poor Rich Country by Umair and was pretty much agreeing with everything he wrote.

The crux of his blog is about the basics of life which you need to pay for in America.

In Europe, Canada, and even Australia, society invests in all these things — and the costs of basic necessities societies don’t provide are regulated. For example, I pay $50 dollars for broadband and TV in London — but $200 for the same thing in New York — yet in London, I get vastly more and better media for my money (even including, yes, American junk like Ancient Aliens). That’s regulation at work. And when basic goods like healthcare or elderly care or education are provided and managed at a social scale, that is when they are cheapest, and often of the best quality, too. Hence, healthcare costs far less in London, Paris, or Geneva — and life expectancy is longer, too.

So if you are earning $50k in America, it is a very different thing than earning $50k in France, Germany, or Sweden — in America, you must pay steeply for the basics of life, for basic necessities. Thus, incomes stretch much further in other countries, which enjoy a vastly higher quality of life, even though people there earn roughly the same amount, because they pay vastly less for basic necessities. Americans are rich, but only nominally — their money doesn’t buy nearly as much as their peers does, where it matters and counts most, for the basics of life.

I remember many friends moving to America and reporting the wages they were getting as a result.

One friend for example said he was earning 6 figures as a contractor and I replied great, are you paying health insurance? He replied no, he will be fine. I said GET health insurance because one slip and you are so screwed.

America is pioneering a new kind of poverty. The kind of poverty that’s developed in America isn’t just bizarre and gruesome — it’s novel and unseen. It isn’t something that we understand well, economists, intellectuals, thinkers, because we have no good framework to think about it. It’s not absolute poverty like Somalia, and it’s not just relative poverty, like in gilded banana republics. It’s a uniquely American creation. It’s extreme capitalism meets Social Darwinism by way of rugged self-reliance crossed with puritanical cruelty.

Its a big deal and Umair is right. I do have a worry that the UK is sleep walking in the same direction too!

Been thinking about this a lot as the Brexit drama turns into full on insanity. Really good to finally watch Noam Chomsky’s Requiem for the American Dream.

https://twitter.com/cubicgarden/status/1105614199512883200

Art of influence and misdirection

On the eve of another big decision, I’ve been thinking about influence and misdirection quite a bit.

I was reminded of a book and TV series I saw when I was much younger. It was called How to be Cool. Part of the thinking is influence and the theory of memetics. PBS did a series called The Merchants of Cool, although the one I remember included Douglas Rushkoff.

Nostalgia is the enemy of progress and they know this?

Vinyl Night

Some of you might think, you wrote about this before? Well yes I did…  but I have even more to add.

I was actually listening to the wired podcast (which recently hasn’t been so great) and they mentioned the Nokia 3310 and a review of the retro phone along with other retro stuff. The later link is worth reading as it links the tech industries retro fascination with our need for nostalgia due to the current political climate.

Our love of nostalgic gadgets comes from the shaky political world we live and brands are using it to their advantage

Nostalgia is an increasingly popular marketing strategy. As consumers, we’ve enjoyed a resurgence of iconic brands and models such as RayBan ‘Wayfarers’, SMEG fridges, Nintendo consoles, vinyl and turntables, Nike Air Max, the infamous Nokia 3310. The list goes on.

“In times of uncertainty, people naturally gravitate towards nostalgic products and experiences,” says psychology professor Sir Cary Lynn Cooper at Manchester Business School. “It gives them a feeling of stability. With the likes of Brexit and Trump continuing the uncertainty of 2016 into 2017, people will be reminiscing about fond times in a more stable world. These times will no doubt have an affinity with certain experiences, brands or products.”

To be fair reading it, its more focused on price points than anything but I do find the amount of people getting into vinyl (although not getting into djing which seems a shame), hollywood remaking old films (although this has always been the case) and of course the retro gaming trend.

Its a interesting point and I’ll refer back to my thoughts previously and I even mention Brexit back then.

I do wonder if its a chicken & egg issue? Is the demand coming from companies or from the people? I think its the people as I imagine nostalga has always been there going way way back

I don’t like these electric light switch things, much prefer the smell of gas lamps?

I jokely imagine? But you only have to think about fireplaces and how people love them. I assume the companies just worked out this is a sure way to sell stuff. Be it retro trainers, 60/70/80’s clothes, 90’s phones, gas lamps, etc etc…

Trainspotting t2's living in the past

There is something Veronika says in trainspotting t2 when Sickboy and Renton are reminiscing about the past. Something like, in her country people think about the future not think about the past.

Everything’s going to be alright

Brexit
Frankly 2016 has been pretty shocking… Brexit, Trump, Internet censorship, Data retention, the increasing divide between the working class and middle class. I’m not saying its the worst year ever or the worst I have ever experienced, just its pretty bad.

I think this sums up so much

The Brexit campaign was centred on the idea of taking back control. That is what it said in huge letters on the red bus – a slogan that went far beyond the demand for control of our borders.

The point was that people all over Britain were desperate for a democratic system that gave them some semblance of control over their destiny, in a globalised and interconnected world where decisions often seem to be made by anonymous elites a long way away.

To them, the European Union was one obvious villain.

Ok enough… I decided a long time ago that I can’t worry about the things I can’t easily change, I can only change the things which I have direct control over. Actually trying to change everything drives you slightly nuts.

I can't change the world, but I can change the world in me

I happen to read laura’s blog while on the bus back from Bristol and it seemed to fit perfectly here, as I start to deconstruct this years love life.

Its been a busy year but honestly not nearly as much love as you would have thought. I made the effort to date less and have more purpose about my love life. This meant less time on OKcupid, PoF, Bumble and being more selective when speed dating. I tried going more organic with dating aka through friends of friends, its been ok. You do start to wonder sometimes… but I agree with Laura on bad dates…

The consistent comment is that I have such terrible luck, and always end up on these really ‘bad dates’, but I can’t help but disagree. There’s no such thing as bad dates, just the opportunity for a good story, a page in the autobiography, and the more terrible the date, the better the story. In my opinion, the worst possible kind of date are the ones that aren’t memorable, and usually they’re so because nothing of note, either good or bad happened.

Some would say this sounds odd, cold or calculated? But honestly it’s not, the point is each interaction changes you and your outlook. A new story a new experience, a new view. Some dates are memorable and some you forget about. It’s worst to be non-memorable and one worst to be memorable for the wrong reasons.

This is always a tricky time to be single and for some of my newly single friends it’s a lonely time. I can only say this is a good time to take stock, be honest with family/friends and share. Its not the time for judgement. Its time to listen and enjoy each others company.

Think about what makes you unique and focus on that rather all the things which you should be (no matter what people, media, etc say). Theres a lot of pressure to be this, that or another. One of my new years resolutions was to think humanity, being human we are not perfect but we can only be the best we are. We move through life in the best we feel (hopefully not harming ourselves or others). For me thats being as honest, genuine and open as I can be.

For me, I enjoy meeting new people (I’m very much an extrovert) and tend to make things an experience worth remembering. Focus on the present as thats what you can change now; don’t dwell on the past and think about the future.

Enjoy the holidays and each other…